This is an article from the archives…worth reading again for those who think the date of Christmas is a carry over from pagan Roman holidays.
One of the old chestnusts about Christmas (and I don’t mean the type roasting on the open fire) is the charge brought by old fashioned Protestants and new fashioned atheists that Catholicism is old paganism dressed up in new clothes. These critics of Catholicism notice similarities between certain Christian customs and the old religion and claim cynically that Christianity is no more than paganism re visited.
One of their favorite examples is the celebration of Christmas. These theological scrooges say the date of Christmas as well as the trappings like mistetoe, gift giving and Christmas trees are all pagan customs warmed up and served again like so many religious left overs. The story goes like this: “The Romans had this ancient feast called the Saturnalia. From December 17-23 they partied with feasting and foolishness of all sorts. When the Emporer and his mother converted to the Christian faith people felt under pressure to convert to Christianity. However, they knew hoi polloi wouldn’t want to give up their favorite Saturnalia festival– so the Christians came up with a solution. Instead of celebrating the god Saturn in the bleak mid winter, they would celebrate the birth of Christ.
It all sounds plausible enough, but like the solution to a murder mystery–the obvious answer is rarely the right one. The first objection to the idea that Christmas is simply an adopted pagan festival is the simple fact that the early Christians were adamantly opposed to paganism in all its forms. It’s really simple. Read More